Federal Judge Strikes Down OHIO’s Trans Ban Birth Certificate Rule

Ohio transgender

A Federal Judge today ruled that Ohio’s ban on trans people updating their gender on birth certificates is unconstitutional! Both the Plaintiffs and the defendants (State of Ohio) asked for a summary judgment,

On Wednesday, December 10, Judge Michael Watson ruled in favor of four transgender individuals born in Ohio who have been denied the ability to change the sex marker on their birth certificates to reflect
their gender identities.


“[..]prior to 2016, Defendants permitted transgender individuals born in Ohio to change the sex marker on their birth certificates, if the transgender individuals obtained a court order, paid a processing fee, and completed an OOH-provided form.”

“Sometime in 2015, after consultation with Ohio’s in-house counsel and the Ohio Governor’s office, [defendents] “re-reviewed” its birth certificate policy and decided to no longer permit changes to the sex marker on Ohio birth certificates when the basis for that change was that the person was transgender.”

“Ohio continues to permit other changes to birth certificates (such as for adoption and legal name) as well as alterations to the sex field if the basis for the request is a mistake or where the physician observed atypical genitalia and records the sex as “U” for “undetermined” at birth.”

“Plaintiffs challenge Defendants’ Policy and contend that it violates their substantive due process rights to informational privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, discriminates against them in violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and compels their speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

“Defendants contend that there are no constitutional violations or that the state’s justifications outweigh any violations. Defendants’ justifications for prohibiting sex marker changes on the basis of
being transgender are to maintain the historical accuracy of their birth records and prevent fraud.”

Basically, the defendants argued that trans people are not negatively affected by being involuntarily outed.

The defendants said that mass fraud would ensue if the Plaintiffs were allowed to change their gender markers on their birth certificates.

The defendants also said that the plaintiffs needed to be physically harmed to justify their claim that they were put in harm’s way by having documents that are incongruent with their gender expression.

Well, Judge Michael Watson wasn’t having any of that. He slammed Ohio up and down and laid bare the falsehoods they presented in his court.

“This is truly a victory for the LGBT community, in every aspect,” said trans woman Stacie Ray.

“Today’s ruling affirms that the state must recognize the dignity and true identity of every transgender Ohioan. It is incredibly frustrating that our clients faced years of unlawful discrimination, but today we celebrate this victory as an acknowledgement to their commitment to justice,” added Elizabeth Bonham, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Ohio.

“Finally, transgender people from Ohio will be able to correct their birth certificates so that this necessary identity document is consistent with their gender identities,” said Kara Ingelhart, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “Accurate birth certificates are essential. They are foundational to our ability to access a variety of benefits such as employment and housing, and to navigate the world freely and safely, as who we truly are. Courts across the country have overwhelmingly determined these archaic and harmful laws are unconstitutional and today we are closer than ever to eradicating them once and for all.”

“Trans people are the experts on our own genders, lives, and needs. I’m thrilled that the court recognized that policies like Ohio’s, which misgender and endanger us, also violate the constitution. We will keep fighting until we get rid of all discriminatory and burdensome requirements for ID changes around the country,” said Malita Picasso, Skadden Fellow, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project.

At the time of filing, Ohio was one of just three states, along with Tennessee and Kansas, that did not allow these corrections to be made. However, in June 2019, Kansas reached a consent agreement with Lambda Legal and the court ordered the state to start issuing corrected birth certificates, leaving just Ohio and Tennessee as the only two states with this harmful anti-transgender policy on the books.

Per the ruling, Judge Watson writes, “All the Court is finding is that a blanket prohibition against transgender people changing their sex marker is unconstitutional.”

Related: Judge rules Alabama’s Transgender Sterilization policy Unconstitutional

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Kelli, Busey is managing editor at Planet Transgender